Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

An ape in a wig with sad blue eyes

Is there anything the writer William T. Vollmann won’t try for the sake of a good story? He visits a Japanese make-up artist who caters to Japanese businessmen who secretly want to cross-dress. He discovers, among other things, that the greatest cosmetic obstacle to men looking like women is “coarse skin.” More:

She selects a wig. Then she invites me to study myself in the mirror; and it seems that a woman is looking back at me–not a beautiful woman, perhaps; but still, here is someone who came into the world just now and will exist more briefly than I, a woman who has feelings (my feelings); she wants to look her best. What is grace? I assuredly lack it. But I have become pleasingly alien to myself; I am other just as distinctly as misted purple-gray mountains stand out from blindingly snowy rice-fields.
What changed my appearance the most?–The wig and the lipstick, I would say; much of the other procedures simply diverted attention from the age of my skin. In this connection it is interesting to insert another claim by the zoologist Desmond Morris: Long hair and a hairless (or pale and uniform) face increase contrast, thereby making the woman more visible to potential mates. Puffed-out lips (and my made-up mouth does express the illusion of more voluminous lips) are more juvenile, hence indicative, I suppose, of fresher ova.–But then I wonder to what extent convention plays a part. Why wouldn’t Cro-Magnon men have let their hair grow as long as their women did? Besides, the Noh museum in Kanazawa displays a certain atsuita, a thick cloth robe mostly for male roles, which offers its audience a base of turtle-shell octagons, with embroidered patterns pertaining to each of the four seasons within cloud- or fan-shaped borders; it is beautiful, but why should it be male?
–And so once again I feel myself to be, as I so often do when I try to comprehend the nuances of Noh, an ape in a cage.–In Yukiko’s studio, an ape in a wig stares back at me with sad blue eyes.

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Scott Lahti

posted April 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm

From the book KISSING THE MASK: Beauty, Understatement
and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater by William T. Vollmann
There’s Noh company like Noh company like Noh company I Noh
You get word before the Noh has started
That your favorite Sensei died at Rising Sun
Top of that, Papa-san and Mama-san have gone kabuki, you’re think it’s spooky, but you nip on…
From the musical Anime Get Her Sword (Then Again, Shi Mai Noh’t)

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posted April 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

You’re on a roll with the entertaining odd posts.
Besides coarse skin, a man’s hands, jaw line, Adams apple and shoulders are all a dead giveaway when he is in drag. You can see all of that in the picture above.

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posted April 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

If people are in the mood for more weirdness, here’s a scuba diver getting mugged by an octopus:

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Your Name

posted April 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm

When I saw the headline on the header site, my first thought was “Michael Jackson’s ex”
Actually, picture Ann COulter in 20 years.

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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted April 17, 2010 at 7:38 pm

In a parallel universe where Hunter S. Thompson was a cross-dresser, this sort of story is considered ‘Gonzo Journalism’.
Also, the Spock over there still has a beard, but wears frilly blouses.

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posted April 18, 2010 at 11:44 am

The hands are definitely a problem for anybody cross dressing or actually transitioning permanently. Nothing can be done about that unless a male starts taking female hormones as a teenager. (yes, some do!) The jaw line…not so much. The nose, scalp line and eye brow ridge are more of a factor, and there are expensive cosmetic surgeries for that. Facial and body hair can be gotten rid of by laser or electrolysis.
Of course, many cross dressers or trans women are ‘outed’ the moment they speak. I was lucky enough to be invited into a university study to learn how to speak naturally as a woman. Even when I am not trying, I am constantly called “ma’am” on the phone or at drive throughs.
Interesting how even nominally straight males can feel confined and trapped in gender roles that they do not like in cultures around the world.

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Randy G.

posted April 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm

We balance out. I am a long-time INFP who has somehow (I usually blame the Holy Spirit) been much more outgoing to our neighbors and others in our community. I found this part of your post interesting from a Crunchy Con perspective:
“I had never considered how being forced to live and work close to nature by virtue of social oppression (slavery, which bound black folks to the land) would condition and complicate an individual’s or a culture’s relationship to nature. How do you learn to love the land when your face has been ground into it, so to speak?”
This reminded me of Chris Rice’s and other oranicic foodies’ statements about the difficulty of living in community cross-culturally. At their community in Mississippi and now in Durham, affluent white foodies are finding that African Americans who grew up limited to basic foodstuffs really crave the glitzy new tasty food items that corporate food inc. offers.
Randy G.

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